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Battalion pauses for three fallen warriors

1 Jul 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

Marines 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment paused to honor three men who gave their all for the cost of freedom.

A memorial service was held here July 1 to honor Staff Sgt. Benjamin D. Williams, Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Webb and Pfc. Christopher N. White. All three men were killed in action June 20.

Williams was 30 years old and from Galveston, Texas. Webb was 20 years old and from Temple, Ariz. White was 23 years old and from East View, Ky. All three men were assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

“These three men had little in common except the virtues that made them excel as Marines. This speaks to the rarity of their courage,” said Lt. Col. David J. Furness, the 43-year-old battalion commander from Oceanside, Calif. “There is no single geography from which our warriors are drawn, they come to us from all over – as these three men have.”               

Weapons Company has been one of the hardest hit in the battalion since their arrival to Iraq in January. Currently the battalion has lost 10 Marines in combat in their area of operation, with four of those from Weapons Company.

“It is important that we honor these men, not on how they died, but how they chose to live, for what they stood and fought for,” said Capt. Alex A. Warthen, the 32-year-old company commander from Newport News, Va.

Williams was remembered by one of his closest friends as a well-rounded Marine, a hero and a friend. Gunnery Sgt. William M. Harris recalled Williams as articulate, sharp and Johnny-on-the-spot.

“It came to be that I went to him for a lot of things,” said Harris, the 35-year-old headquarters and service company gunnery sergeant from Norwalk, Conn. “Personal support, guidance and friendship – he was always there for me no matter what time of day it was.”

Williams was remembered as the type of man people could count on for just about anything.

“If he had it, it was yours to use,” Harris said. “Quick to listen and slow to speak, to help in anyway he could. He just wanted to do his part to make a difference.”

Webb was respectful, brave and a gunner in Weapons Company.  He was remembered as a person who could always make people smile, even on tough days.

“I don’t smile a lot, but Webb could always put a smile on my face,” said Pfc. Donald R. Hardison Jr., a 20-year-old mortarman from Baltimore. “In Webb I had a brother, but more than that I had a friend. He changed my attitude and outlook on life.”

Webb would talk for hours about his parents. He cherished his mother and his father. He would tell stories about his brother and their relationship.

“I admired his values for his family,” Hardison said. “He drove me to keep my family closer.”

White wanted to make a difference in the world. That was his reason for joining the Marine Corps.

“Both of us were point men for our squads and we had long talks about our perspectives,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle A. Farmer, a 20-year-old mortarman from Fulton, Ky. “We would critique each another on how we do our jobs thus making us better at techniques that would help us keep everyone alive.”

Farmer said that he and White would challenge each other. Keeping one another on their toes to make them better Marines.

“Chris was an excellent Marine – hands down,” Farmer said. “When times were tough he was serious, but when they weren’t he would cut up and play like a little kid.”

Recent photos of the three fallen Marines rested on easels beside the traditional memorial comprised of a set of helmets resting on rifles with sets of identification tags and combat boots. A Marine played “Taps” at the close of the service while all stood at attention. 

“When our nation called for strong men to step forward these three men did,” Furness said. “Their courage and their sacrifice will be our source of strength as we continue in this important fight.”

The Marines from the company then came forward individually to pay their last respects.

Williams graduated from Little Cypress Mauriceville High School in Orange, Texas. He reported to recruit training in June 1994. He completed the School of Infantry and obtained his military occupational specialty of 0341 – mortarman.

His awards include the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Distinguishing Devise, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Global War of Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Letter of Commendation and Meritorious Mast.

Webb graduated from Mountain View High School in Temple, Ariz. He reported to recruit training in May 2005. He completed the School of Infantry and obtained his military occupational specialty of 0341 – mortarman.

His awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

White graduated from Central Hardin High School in Cecilia, Ky. He reported to recruit training in May 2005. He completed the School of Infantry and obtained his military occupational specialty of 0341 – mortarman.

His awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.